3 Things You Shouldn’t Reveal to Others (Stoicism)

3 Things You Shouldn’t Reveal to Others (Stoicism)

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of Stoicism advised practicing discretion regarding frustrations voiced to others. Revealing too much about certain hardships externally was viewed as a complaint that amplifies distress rather than soothing it. Stoic teachings explored here recommend keeping three areas of struggle private: situations beyond control, ambitions not yet achieved, and minor inevitable setbacks. Complaining about such things to friends family, or publicly on social channels betrays a lack of emotional regulation that contradicts upholding virtue.

1. Don’t Complain About Things Outside Your Control

A significant tenet of Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what is within or outside of one’s control. As the Stoic teacher Epictetus stated, “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.” External events, situations, circumstances, the actions of others, and outcomes are outside of our control. Complaining about such externals is fruitless, according to the Stoics. It accomplishes little and reveals a lack of internal composure and self-discipline. Wise individuals direct their energy only towards that which they have agency over.

Revealing complaints and frustrations over external realities often stems from irrational beliefs that the world should conform to our expectations. The Stoics advise examining and revising such beliefs through logic and reflection. They also recommend focusing on virtuous attitudes and actions regardless of what happens externally. Complaining to friends or posting angrily on social media when stuck in traffic or facing lousy weather betrays a Stoic lack of wisdom and emotional regulation. The correct response is to calmly accept the externals, redirect thoughts to an internal locus of control, and consider virtuous actions that may influence the situation.

2. Don’t Broadcast Your Plans and Goals

Any area Stoic teachers advised keeping private is plans and goals for the future. Roman philosopher Seneca warned against freely broadcasting one’s future ambitions, saying, “Be silent about all things that you intend and keep your plans to yourself.” Sharing goals and intentions widely and too soon can undermine achieving them in a few ways. Others may pass prematurely, possibly influencing what we hope to accomplish. Naysayers can introduce self-doubt and shake confidence. There is also the risk that revealing intentions publicly satiates some rewards, making it less likely to follow through. Failures or abandonments then become visible and shameful.

The Stoics recommend keeping plans and goals primarily to oneself, revealing only to those who genuinely need to know for collaboration or support. It is better to dedicate energy towards small incremental progress silently. Let achievements unfold and make themselves visible rather than touting ambitions. Be judicious even when asking for advice to avoid preliminary assessments. What matters is focusing internally on growth and engagement with each step of a process, not seeking outside validation on whether hopes and dreams seem warranted. Allow goals to remain fluid and reveal only deliberate efforts. It is better.

3. Don’t Overshare Minor Setbacks and Hardships

Finally, practicing Stoics are advised against oversharing relatively minor adversities, disappointments, fears, and the typical ups and downs most humans navigate. Stoicism views such hardships as inevitable and part of life’s natural ebb and flow. Constant complaining and venting about them to friends via long phone calls, text threads, or in-person conversations violates Stoic precepts about maintaining composure, perspective, and discretion. As Shakespeare wrote, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the overwrought heart and bids it break.” Stoics understand the paradox that voicing every petty frustration can amplify distress rather than soothe it. Processing feelings is essential, but not through endless complaints that exceed context.

Significant hardships like grief, trauma, and diagnosed anxiety/depression should be addressed openly with care and support. But most daily hassles and frustrations that everyone faces don’t warrant overwrought public processing. Talking through them occasionally with true confidants is wise. Just don’t let minor complaints dominate. Negativity and victimhood corrupt human excellence and community, according to Stoics. Those practicing are advised to manage inevitable disappointments privately through logic, reflection, and growth. Endure patiently and share sparingly, maintaining dignity through minor adversity.

Case Study: Applying Stoic Reserves

Frank is a 45-year-old accountant who, after reading the blog post on Stoic advice about complaining and oversharing, tries to implement more discretion in what daily frustrations he vocalizes to Col, colleagues, and friends. Though Frank tends to vent minor annoyances loudly and boasts about personal plans, adopting a Stoic filter helps him project more professional poise.

Frank endures a technology failure in one instance, causing the loss of 2 hours of work analyzing 45-year-old data. Rather than fuming aloud in the office about the malfunctioning computer, which Frank cannot control, he pauses, breathes slowly, then redirects energy into beginning the analysis again with composure. Frank seems so unbothered by the disruption; he smiles and says, “There’s no use getting upset about the inevitable hassles life throws our way!”

Additionally, Frank stops freely discussing the condo he hopes to purchase as an investment property this year whenever colleagues inquire about his weekend. He sees how often broadcasting plans and goals can make abandonments painfully visible if things don’t work out. Frank also notices colleagues’ tendency to prematurely assess his financial analyses for the investment, which breeds self-doubt. Instead, he focuses inward on incremental progress without regularly soliciting outside opinions.

Finally, after a difficult week, Frank resists calling friends Friday night to vent frustrations over multiple work delays, tensions with his brother, and catching a cold. Recognizing these as minor, inevitable setbacks, Frank cultivates the Stoic discipline to process feelings through journaling calmly. He turns adversities into opportunities to build resilience. When close friends ask how Frank is coping with recent challenges, he sums it up simply by saying, “Ups and downs as always – but staying focused on what I can control. The rest sorts itself out.”

By filtering disclosures through a Stoic framework, Frank transforms typical complaining into composure, professionalism, and goal-talk into quietly adequate progress to process feelings through journaling calmly and durability with confidants. Aligning expressions with Stoic principles proves empowering.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s futile to complain openly about situations beyond your control – instead, focus efforts on what’s controllable.
  • Broadcasting ambitions can invite early doubt or satiate rewards – keep plans private and let results speak.
  • Oversharing minor hassles amplifies and obsesses over what’s inevitable – endure challenges with quiet resilience.


Stoic wisdom advises being judicious when publicly airing particular frustrations. Big and small challenges are guaranteed in life – that’s fate. But prudence guides whether privately managing them builds character or vocal complaints erode dignity. Follow the Stoic path of discerning when sharing constructs support or fuels excess. If revelations liberate higher awareness, disclose. No hardship can derail if expressions chain one to lower negativity, quiet perseverance, and unsay belief in human excellence—master life through self-control first, vocal processing second.